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Comment: Re:Cry Me A River (Score 1) 608

by omfgnosis (#47415921) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

There's a problem with efforts to make programming more accessible to non-programmers at the technology level: it turns out that you still have to become a programmer to use the technology effectively. This very notion is how programming languages were developed in the first place—what if we could specify what a program should do, rather than writing the code that does it, and then have the computer generate the code? That is a programming language.

Modern programming is increasingly abstracted away from the metal, and compilers are a wonder unto themselves, but ultimately in order to effectively write a program you still need to do two very specialized things:

1. Design the damn thing well enough to at least get it working (and hopefully well enough to maintain and extend it).
2. Either know or discover—usually both—how to work around the warts of the chosen technology (because they all have warts).

Even if programming could be made so abstract that it's essentially a series of opaque building blocks, you'll always need to do #1, and only by vast inefficiencies and ignorance be able to avoid #2.

- - -

Side note:

Speaking of HyperCard, in many ways its spiritual descendant is Flash. Flash hosts a monstrosity of a language, with concepts from Java bolted onto JavaScript. I'm not saying it couldn't have been done another way, but it's little surprise that something designed to be simple for content producers could become so enormously complex.

Comment: Re:Netflix rating engine sucks (Score 2) 86

by omfgnosis (#47405359) Attached to: Netflix Is Looking To Pay Someone To Watch Netflix All Day

How's Netflix going to figure out why I rated that a 1 without asking me?

This isn't really hard, in the abstract. They just have to have much better metadata about the content, and then an ever-deeper analysis of relative ratings can follow from that. Inference of context will never be perfect, but then again neither will a questionnaire (even if people voluntarily devote their time to answering it) which could recursively be subject to the same criticism that it lacks context. Unless Netflix (or any similar service) deeply understands its content, its recommendations will always be lacking.

The reason online retailers can do relatively better is that a given product often has quite a lot of metadata that can be reasoned about, and it's often relatively easy to model in context of a given product's domain. The kind of qualities people discuss about content is generally much more vague and superficial in comparison.

For instance, Netflix is often confused into believing I have any interest in genre. It might be better at predicting my taste if there were a deeper wealth of data on the kinds of qualities I care about in the content I do like, but it's generally pretty self-evident that they don't. They use coincidence of ratings across users to approximate this, but it's all very hand-wavy and often leads to confusing (if unsurprising) results. Nothing is a substitute for a deeper (currently, at least, human) analysis of the content.

Comment: Re:And the question of the day is... (Score 1) 327

"The part after the first colon...

I stopped paying attention right there, and I actually know what you're describing (in fact I almost remembered the IRI RFC number off the top of my head even though I haven't looked at it for a couple years; I had transposed the 9 and the 8). It's not the users who are stupid, it's the systems and software designers. I have to know this shit because it's my job. Asking people to remember or comprehend an arbitrary sequence of characters that is not directly meaningful to them is bad design.

And it doesn't end there. URLs are a showcase of bad design. Numerous characters that have different meaning depending on context. Characters that are effectively meaningless but hey, they're required anyway. Characters that are allowed to be meaningless after they're meaningful. Escaping rules that are different depending on context. Segments that are literally never sent down the wire in a request. Fucking interchangeable delimiters in a query string! (But hey, depends on your web server. Good luck guessing. You have one fact on your side if you care enough to know any of this shit, and it's that the worst choice is by far the most common.) It's downright user-hostile to developers, and if you think I'm kidding go look for how developers try to match URLs, and I'm saying that as a guilty party (you can probably find that gem, if you can't I'll give you a few hints). And you want people who don't care to make sense of it?

URLs are probably never going away. There is too much infrastructure and frankly economy around the current design. But for fuck's sake no one should have to read a complete URL unless they want to, and unless they want to it's actually harmful to show it to them. The only thing most people need to know is the domain name and top level domain (and they shouldn't have to know the TLD either, thanks The rest is noise for anything but machines and nerds. And if anyone wants to become a nerd, according to the Chrome feature, finding the noise is only a click or key command away.

Comment: Re:And the question of the day is... (Score 1) 327

Navigating to a page with a dangerous payload isn't the only way browser users are exploited, and this isn't intended to address that issue. The point is that a phishing website, with a URL that looks legitimate to users who don't understand URLs, but bother to look anyway because their brat kids told them to, can exploit users that are trying to protect themselves. By hiding everything except the domain name, that user has added protection because they don't need to understand URLs.

It's a logical extension of the current behavior of most browsers to dim the non-domain portion of the URL; but some browsers even get that wrong. Look here:

If I don't understand how URLs work, I might think that I'm at a site called "tech". That could be improved simply by changing the dimming boundaries, but it still requires a user to filter a lot of unnecessary information. If I'm wondering where I've gone on the web, all I need to know is "". Even that is problematic (see

There are many potential vectors to exploit web users, and there are many potential pitfalls for the less technically inclined even as protections improve. Implemented well, the Chrome approach could come at no meaningful cost to "power users", but potentially improve some users' experience and safety using the web. There is no reason not to do this, unless it is done badly.

Comment: Re:So - who's in love with the government again? (Score 1) 397

by omfgnosis (#46803289) Attached to: Beer Price Crisis On the Horizon

First, if you can't trust the byproducts from breweries to be safe, you've got a bigger problem: the beer would be poisonous.

It wouldn't even get that far. Anything that could actually make you sick in beer (besides alcohol) would make the beer distinctly unpalatable and therefore unmarketable. As in, worse than (pick your favorite mass market beer to hate on here).


Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing 612

Posted by Soulskill
from the something-from-nothing dept.
KentuckyFC writes: "One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a Big Bang. It's backed up by numerous lines of evidence, such as the cosmic microwave background and so on. But what caused the Big Bang, itself? For many years, cosmologists have fallen back on the idea that the universe formed spontaneously; that the Big Bang was result of quantum fluctuations in which the universe came into existence from nothing. But is this compatible with what we know about the Big Bang itself and the theories that describe it? Now cosmologists have come up with the first rigorous proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously and produced the universe we see today. The proof is developed within a mathematical framework known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations. Most of the time, such a bubble will collapse and disappear. The question these scientists address is whether a bubble could also expand exponentially to allow a universe to form in an irreversible way. Their proof (PDF) shows that this is indeed possible. There is an interesting corollary: the role of the cosmological constant is played by a property known as the quantum potential. This is a property introduced in the 20th century by the physicist David Bohm, which has the effect of making quantum mechanics deterministic while reproducing all of its predictions. It's an idea that has never caught on. Perhaps that will change now."

Comment: Re:Pathetic (Score 1) 683

by omfgnosis (#46097193) Attached to: VC Likens Google Bus Backlash To Nazi Rampage

Of course the "masses" can be turned against scapegoats. That's why scapegoating is used: because it obviously works. If you're seriously asking this question, I would like another, better explanation for why anyone gives half a fuck about immigrants something something jobs, sexual deviants something something morality, flag burners something something... what? This is just from where I sit culturally, but the mechanics of scapegoating are the same in many expressions of, or aspirations to, power.

It so happens that it also manifests in some ways as a matter of course: to people with an immature but real class consciousness, conspicuous consumption is a target that's easier to identify and condemn than a massive and byzantine corruption. Plainly, most people can hardly reason with economy. To a poor person who does most things right and still doesn't get ahead of a struggle to survive, it's a lot easier to find and blame a privileged class of high-skilled labor that benefits disproportionately from this corruption. It's especially easy when real journalism is breathing its dying breaths, in which that other privileged class whose labor is devoted entirely to deeply researching the state of the world, and then exposing that research, has very few remaining outlets and proportionally an even smaller audience.

It might be that there isn't even a real, concerted effort to use these privileged workers as scapegoats, but rather that it happens because they are impressively easy to resent. Put yourself in the shoes of, say, a barista. Whose faces do you see buying your product that you very probably couldn't even afford? Who do you serve?

But it's still a gift to the actual ruling class, a tiny population of people who can exploit nearly everyone and everything. Wouldn't it be nice to have literally no economic worries in life, and let the plebes duke it out over the difference between paycheck-to-rent and paycheck-to-mortgage?

The bogosity meter just pegged.